First inhabited in 600 AD by the Anasazi Tribe (now known as the Ancestral Pueblo People) the 81 square mile area of Mesa Verde National Park is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s also the only national park out of nearly 60 in the United States to be exclusively dedicated to archeology and the preserving of America’s ancient cultural heritage. Mesa Verde is best known for the numerous cliff side buildings that were constructed here mostly in the 1200s. In addition to the cliff dwellings, there are also remnants of reservoirs, dams, towers, and farming terraces. Though exploration and excavation of this amazing treasure began in the late 19th century, very few of the sites in Mesa Verde have been thoroughly investigated, with several being merely identified as being of interest. Visitors now tend towards the most well preserved and well known of these ruins with the help of knowledgeable park rangers and tour guides.
In addition to the fantastic ruins, repeat travelers often take advantage of Mesa Verde’s wonderful hiking trails, the Chapin Masa Archeological Museum, bird watching, cross country skiing, and some of the most amazing star gazing you have ever experienced. As the Four Corners region is relatively far from the sky bleaching city lights, you can expect to look out into the vast expanses of the universe from the comfort of your suite’s balcony. Oh that’s right, did we not mention that Mesa Verde is home to the Far View Lodge? Open mid-April to mid-October Far View affords travelers 100 mile plus vistas into three states along with private balconies, delicious food, and the serene quiet that only a hotel without televisions can provide. The most astounding part of your trip will be the cliffs. As you ascend the rock faces keep an eye out for the original hand holds carved in by the natives. These are particularly visible in and around Cliff Palace. Sadly, Cliff Palace has been ravaged by vandals and much of what was there as little as 100 years ago has been lost to erosion and thievery. Other interesting spots are the Balcony House (not for you acrophobics out there), the 94 room Mug House, and Petroglyph Point Trail (definitely worth getting the guided tour on this one).
Travelers do need to be aware that the temperatures in the southern Colorado desert can be quite extreme, especially during the peak summer and winter months. Check ahead before you book and dress appropriately. Though Mesa Verde is open year round, the vast majority of activities and sites are available between April and October. This is especially true of restaurants. Although the park has a few different dining opportunities, none whet the appetite more after a long day of exploring than the offerings at Metate Room in the Far View Lodge. Fresh local produce complements the unique contemporary flair given to native dishes. It’s a destination for foodies all on its own. More casual fare can be found at the Knife Edge Café (breakfast only), the Spruce Tree Terrace Café, and the Far View Terrace Restaurant. Although half day trips are possible, it’s strongly recommended you take at least one full day to see all the wonders that Mesa Verde has to offer. Great for an adventurous honeymoon trip or for a family looking to explore new frontiers, Mesa Verde National Park is truly a history lover’s paradise.
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